Friday, October 2, 2015

Český Krumlov, Czech Republic - An Experience In Itself

We found that while Vienna required "multiple experiences" because of its geographical layout, there were no similar problems on visiting the small Southern Bohemian town of (Old) Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic . A small medieval town just 3 1/2 hours shuttle trip from Vienna,  it became the next stop in our Eastern European excursion. Two reasons we chose to go there were: 1) It is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, and 2) It is not Vienna or Prague which are teeming with tourists  (especially selfie-stick wielding Americans)  and off the beaten path.

According to Wikipedia:

Construction of the town and castle began in the late 13th century at a ford in the Vltava River, which was important in trade routes in Bohemia. In 1302 the town and castle were owned by the House of Rosenberg. Emperor Rudolf II bought Krumlov in 1602 and gave it to his natural son Julius d’Austria. Emperor Ferdinand II gave Krumlov to the House of Eggenberg. From 1719 until 1945 the castle belonged to the House of Schwarzenberg. Most of the architecture of the old town and castle dates from the 14th through 17th centuries; the town's structures are mostly in Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles.

For this brief (2 day) stay we elected not to go to a large hotel but a smaller boarding venue called "Villa Beatika" featuring a 3-story former apartment bldg. now configured for tourists.  The owner, an expatriate Brit named Michael - was extremely helpful including showing us the best way to get to the Old Town, as well as the best places to dine and the major sights to see.

Given the length of traveling time the first day - some three and a half hours from Vienna to Český Krumlov , we decided to just walk into the Old Town to take in the sights and maybe get a meal at a place recommended. It took us about ten minutes to walk the half mile or so and immediately it was like lurching into the Middle Ages as we encountered cobblestone streets and walk ways and castles from the 13th century providing an awesome backdrop for any photos.

As Michael had told us, it took barely fifteen minutes to walk across the entire Old Town center with stunning sights at every turn.  Some of them are shown below:
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First afternoon out with castles in the background as we head toward town center.
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Overview of the town and the Vltava River .

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Another view from the 2nd day we were there.

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Night time view of ancient buildings and Vltava River below.

The photo above was taken two hours after sunset from a bridge joining two parts of the town, and a roughly ten minute walk from Svejk, the restaurant we ate at the first night. Janice had a delicious veal dish with horse radish and dumplings while I ordered a roast pork dish with potatoes, the total cost perhaps $11 U.S. if that. Another American couple that arrived soon after us ordered roast rabbit, a delicacy in South Bohemia.

On our last day we enjoyed one of the best meals we had in eastern Europe at a place called Konvice  at one edge of the Old Town square. Some 5 hours later we returned to enjoy the sights of the  other side of town and especially the magical view of the castles with their lights dancing on the River Vltava - surely presenting a spectacle that exceeded any of the artificial creations seen at Disney World.
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Castle seen from an alley in the Old Town square at night.

One of the other highlights of our stay there included  visiting an ancient livery stable museum featuring medieval riding gear, including a sleigh, e.g.
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But we both decided to pass up visiting the "Torture Museum".  (Strangely, every place we visited - Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Český Krumlov   and Prague - featured some kind of Torture Museum with some of the most horrific instruments one could imagine on display in the windows.) Neither of us had any desire to pollute our minds with images of human brutality and "man's inhumanity to man".  We opted for the more "magical" scenes (as Janice often referred to them) shown in the preceding images.

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